Monday, August 25, 2014

Ebola news from The Archdruid, Daily Kos, and campuses on the campaign trail

Greer the Archdruid made this observation in Heading Toward The Sidewalk.
I suspect that most of my readers have been paying at least some attention to the Ebola epidemic now spreading across West Africa. Over the last week, the World Health Organization has revealed that official statistics on the epidemic’s toll are significantly understated, the main nongovernmental organization fighting Ebola has admitted that the situation is out of anyone’s control, and a series of events neatly poised between absurdity and horror—a riot in one of Monrovia’s poorest slums directed at an emergency quarantine facility, in which looters made off with linens and bedding contaminated with the Ebola virus, and quarantined patients vanished into the crowd—may shortly plunge Liberia into scenes of a kind not witnessed since the heyday of the Black Death. The possibility that this outbreak may become a global pandemic, while still small, can no longer be dismissed out of hand.
I couldn't resist responding and promoting one of my entries.
As for the Ebola outbreak becoming a top story, I mentioned in a comment here that it looked concerning weeks ago.  Honestly, Ebola scares me.  I first read about it in "The Hot Zone," the very first chapter of which described the death of an Ebola patient on a plane back to the U.S.  Stephen King described that story as "the scariest thing he'd ever read--and then it got worse."  Fortunately, it's not an immediate threat to people in the developed world.  That's small comfort to the people in west Africa, who are in immediate and growing danger.
That got a direct response from Gwaiharad.
@Pinku-Sensei: I'm not at all surprised that Ebola's become a top news story. After all, Stephen King's right. Ebola is really scary stuff. And media companies thrive on selling fear.
Media companies aren't alone.  Three universities whose press releases I quoted in Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Shark Week) and Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Bardarbunga eruption) have also been capitalizing on the outbreak, which threatens to become an epidemic, if not a pandemic.  Follow over the jump for them, as well as a frightening diary from Daily Kos.

University of Alaska: UAA professor uses Ebola drill to teach virology
August 20, 2014
Ebola creates a human death only Hollywood could love. The stealth of infection followed by a feverish body puddled in blood—it’s the stuff of a nightmare. Storylines from movies like “Outbreak” and “Hot Zone” linger long after the popcorn, seeding pandemic scenarios that haunt.

So no, Eric Bortz, an assistant professor in biological science at UAA, is never surprised when undergraduates arrive in his virology class, all schooled up on Ebola. They’ve watched the big screen, scanned the headlines; they’re interested.

Bortz sends them to discover the facts. This fall, his students will run an outbreak detection exercise not unlike the World Health Organization’s current effort in West Africa. One of the first things they learn about the filovirus is that transmission is through contact with infected body fluids. It’s not airborne, as fictionalized movies suggest.
University of Connecticut: UConn Biologist on West Africa’s Ebola Outbreak
By: Combined Reports
August 13, 2014
The first Ebola case in West Africa may have appeared in a 2-year-old boy in Guinea in December 2013. It then spread to neighboring Liberia and Sierra Leone. By March this year, health care workers were aware that a regional outbreak was underway. But it was an American’s death in July that woke the world to the epidemic.

Patrick Sawyer was a U.S. citizen working for the Liberian government who traveled by air to Nigeria while experiencing symptoms of Ebola. He collapsed in the Lagos airport and died in hospital five days later. The fact that he arrived in the capital city by air alarmed many about the possibility of global consequences.

This outbreak is larger than any previous and, as of this moment, it is still expanding. This disease is surrounded by mystery and frightening images, both real and fictional. Professor Kenneth Noll in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology offers a true picture of Ebola and the potential consequences of the West African outbreak.
University of Arizona: Treating Ebola Patients is 'Difficult Ethical Decision' for Doctors and Nurses, Says UA Global Health Expert
Treating patients with infectious diseases presents an ethical dilemma for health care workers, says Dr. David Beyda. They want to help but place themselves at risk by doing so.
By Al Bravo, UA College of Medicine – Phoenix
August 11, 2014
Dr. David Beyda has been in the trenches, treating patients around the world. So it is easy to believe him when he says health professionals face a moral dilemma when asked to help in an outbreak such as the one occurring in western Africa.

"Being a physician or a nurse caring for those patients with Ebola, knowing that they may, with one slip of a glove, that they may get it, and now they have compromised themselves and they've compromised their families," said Beyda, chairman of the Department of Bioethics and Medical Humanism at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix. "It's an extremely difficult ethical decision that we as physicians and nurses face on a daily basis when we are asked to care for those who have an infectious disease."

Beyda, a pediatric critical care specialist at Phoenix Children's Hospital, is also the director of the global health program at the UA College of Medicine – Phoenix. He has received numerous humanitarian awards for his service and has led several groups of students to far-off lands to serve and see health care in developing nations.
Finally, HoundDog on Daily Kos brings this chilling news: Sierra Leone joins Liberia in threatening to arrest anyone hiding Ebola patients.  YIKES!  I won't quote it here; it's a comprehensive update of what was known up to Saturday.  Go read it for yourselves.

This epidemic is likely to get much worse before it gets better.  Stay tuned.  In the meantime, here's an image from a musical referencing a short story, The Phantom of the Opera crashing a party as The Red Death.

Ebola, the Red Death--I like it, even if it's not completely original.

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